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Theatre: More Bolehland Barbs

6 Nov

Tria (front) and Venugopal.

AN urban legend has it that a onetime minister who enjoyed a hilarious Instant Cafe Theatre show jokingly asked the comedic troupe if “they were scared of Kamunting”, a discreet reference to the detention centre for the subversive in Taiping, Perak.

Amerul (left) and Bob.

As an answer to his question, the Cafe’s latest offering, Kurang Manis, recently began with this announcement: “All characters portrayed are purely fictional, including those with an uncanny resemblance to VIPs”.

Kurang Manis, staged at The Actors Studio in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 29 to Nov 2, marked the return of the stand-up troupe which excels in parodying Malaysian political life after a four-year hiatus.

Focusing on “the last days, the new dawn, the final hiccup and the never-ending story”, Kurang Manis starred both the old and brand new.

Newcomers Alex Subryn Luis, Amerul Affendi, Ayam (Fareed Jamaluddin), Azrul Zaidi, Chew Kin Wah, Gan Hui Yee, Tria Aziz, Zahiril (Bob) Adzim and Zalfian Fuzi joined veterans Jo Kukathas, Shanthini Venugopal, Edwin Sumun and Maya Tan Abdullah in parodying the latest developments in the politics of Bolehland, in the Cafe’s trade-mark, no-holds-barred style.
Kurang Manis centred on daily life in the “new, post-March 8” Bolehland where its voters wait for “the next explosive instalment” while indulging in various local pastimes: shooting crows, playing mahjong, holding candlelight vigils for detainees and bloggers, and logging onto the Internet to find out what is going on (be they fact or hearsay).

This time, the Cafe’s team combined its vintage sketches and pop parodies with screenings of, among others, a Pacman video game and transcripts of a cyber-chatroom conversation.

The cleverly-done video game substituted the Pacman character with that of a prominent cabinet minister and the “monsters” with that of an opposition MP and a blogger icon.

Alex, better known as rock singer Ryn, and Audition champion Tria, made full use of their musical talents to dish out brilliant parodies of Hotel California, Besame Mucho and Mamma Mia!, which ribbed most major political and public figures, to a roaring crowd.

In their musical acts, they were more than assisted by seasoned veterans Venugopal, Maya, Kukathas and Sumun.

Tria proved that she was cut-out for stand-up comedy in the acts Dial A Bomoh, which poked fun at bomoh and makers of porn VCDs, and Alternative Clinic, which parodied, among others, sodomy allegations, the Bersih rally and fiction-writing in a leading Bahasa daily.

Azrul of Raja Lawak fame also shone at portraying “gatecrashers” or “spoilers” in most of the sketches. He was natural as a “tear-gasser” in Alternative Clinic, and the perfect foil to Chew’s “sucker-upper” in Crow Hunters, a tale of two politically-inclined crow shooters from City Hall.

Amerul and Bob, who first attained fame in the Cafe’s acclaimed play Air Con written by Shanon Shah, showed their hilarious out-of-this-world side in Da Bomb, a sketch about a “suicide bomber for hire” company headed by two Taliban wannabes.

The duo were joined by Gan of Animal Farm fame, who was irritatingly entertaining as a depressed grandmother who wanted to “go off with a bang”.

Bob, whose villain character in Kami – The Movie has been noted as one of the year’s most despicable, also stole the show as a man afflicted by political sloganeering in Alternative Clinic, and an effeminate coffee boy in the showcase’s crowning sketch, The Return of the Toymaker.

Long-locked Ayam did great, too, as the Malaysianised version of Narnia’s lion king, Aslan, in The Return of the Toymaker, and a kris-wielding Hang Tuah wannabe in Da Bomb.

Of the veterans, Kukathas made full use of her classic “nasty minister” disguise to whip up a crazy and zany interview session with Sumun.

She also shined as a “nasty judge” who made life hell for an idealistic lawyer played by Zalfian, and the creepy and menacing Toymaker in The Return of the Toymaker.

Sumun proved to be the gang’s “master of disguise”. He portrayed, to the delight of the audience, roles as diverse as a gorgeous model, a sleepy emperor, a permanently sick patient and case-fixing politician.

Instant Cafe Theatre turns 18 this year, and its latest stand-up act shows it remains the king in political parodies.

New Straits Times

Penghibur Mahu Tuntut Hak Asasi

1 Sep

SAYA memang teruja kerana golongan muda di negara ini kita semakin sedar mengenai hak mereka dan negara berdemokrasi yang mereka impikan. Pengundi muda memang keluar beramai-ramai untuk memilih perubahan yang lebih demokratik di negara ini pada 8 Mac lalu.

Betapa ironinya, perubahan yang dipilih di Kedah nampaknya lebih mengongkong dan berfikiran tertutup berbanding kerajaan sebelumnya.

Bertambah sedih dalam kes ini kerana, agenda kerajaan negeri nampaknya berteraskan alasan moraliti dalam ‘Islam’. Saya seorang Muslim dan saya yakin bahawa sebagai seorang Islam, memang menjadi tanggungjawab saya untuk mendukung demokrasi dan hak sejagat.

Namun, sekarang saya sudah tidak boleh membuat begini di negeri kelahiran saya sendiri, kerana saya memilih untuk mendukung nilai ini melalui muzik pop dan rock. Tanpa segan silu kerana dalam konsert saya, saya memang banyak berbicara dengan peminat mengenai isu keadilan, demokrasi dan hak asasi.

Memang, pengharaman konsert sebegini akan memberi kesan serius terhadap rezeki golongan artis dan pihak penganjur konsert. Ini adalah sesuatu yang kita semua perlu bincangkan – artis, penganjur konsert dan peminat konsert.

Tetapi apa yang lebih penting bagi saya sebagai seorang artis ialah ini satu isu hak asasi. Hak asasi rakyat untuk bersuara dan berkumpul. Jika kita menggunakan ‘moraliti’ sebagai alasan untuk mengharamkan konsert, bagi saya ini tidak masuk akal.

Sesetengah pemimpin politik yang terbabit dalam rasuah dan penyalahgunaan kuasa – adakah kita mahu mengharamkan semua parti politik dan menggantung sistem demokrasi?

Demi demokrasi dan hak asasi, pengharaman konsert perlu dihentikan, sama ada ia dipelopori oleh Pakatan Rakyat atau Barisan Nasional. Seni dan hiburan adalah satu petanda tahap kematangan demokrasi kita. Jika mana-mana parti politik sudah beriya-iya mahu mengharamkan konsert muzik, bayangkan apa lagi yang akan cuba diharamkan.

Kuala Lumpur.

Berita Harian

Sing-Song Wonderful

6 Aug

Albert & Edwin churned out beautiful music.
Albert & Edwin churned out beautiful music.

Local talents made it an evening to remember at the KL Sing Song 2008, writes SHUIB TAIB.

THE setting was intimate, the melodies soothing and the vocals were commendable.

KL Sing Song 2008 was an evening to remember, thanks to the wonderful performances by our local talents.

Back for its fourth year, the three-day event was held at the KL Performing Arts Centre (KLPac).

With just their instruments, the performers (who performed in English, Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia) gave acoustic performances which mesmerised the audience.

Some of the talents may be relatively new but their performance belie this.

For instance, Rendra Zawawi, who performed during the second night alongside Albert & Edwin as well as Estrella (who comprises Liyana and Adzwan – or Yob as he is fondly known), had the audience demanding an encore.

Interestingly, all the performers stayed onstage while the others performed so that no time was wasted.

Rendra’s music is best described as folk rock. He blames the English weather for whatever “mellow sentiments” one may find in his music. To date, he has recorded over 20 songs.

That evening, Rendra also showed that he was just as able to write songs in Bahasa Malaysia when he rendered Jalan Jalan Cari Kawan, much to the delight of the audience.

Albert & Edwin also did not disappoint. Although the duo apologised to the audience that their songs were mainly in Mandarin, no one complained as their music was simply beautiful.

Before they performed their numbers, the funny and talented duo explained to the audience what each song meant.

Then, the audience was treated to the sweet and soulful vocals of Liyana of Estrella.

For the uninitiated, Estrella was formed in 2006. It originally had three members but bassist Ashraf later left the band to concentrate on his other band, Sakti.

Estrella released its eponymous album late last year. During the KL Sing Song 2008, it rendered several from its debut album which again had the crowd eating out of their hands.

The eponymous debut features 10 tracks with the first radio single, Stay, already making the rounds on local airwaves. That evening, the crowd had the rare opportunity to hear it “live”.

Although each performer brought with him something of his own, it was the spontaneous bantering between the bands that made the evening interesting.

Liyana was full of praise for Albert & Edwin after the duo’s performance.

She said: “I don’t know what it is that you guys have, but it sure sounds beautiful!”

Albert & Edwin often had the crowd in stitches each time they translated the title of their Mandarin songs into English.

“This song is titled Tou Tou. In Mandarin, “tou” means steal. So it means, steal steal!” explained Edwin much to the amusement of the crowd.

Other performers included Mia Palencia, Reza Salleh, Paolo Delfino, Jerome Kugan (Most Promising Young Artist Cameronian Arts Awards 2005), Otam, Izzy Mohamed and Pete Teo (winner of three AIM awards in 2007 and the producer of the Malaysian Artists for Unity Project).

There were also performances by Shanon Shah (Most Promising Young Artist Cameronian Arts Awards 2004 and Best Male Vocalist AIM 2006), Karen Nunis, Meor (former Luncai Emas artiste), Yuna, Peter Hassan & Markiza (founders of Acoustic Jam), Nan Blues, Sherry, Azmyl Yunor, Sei Hon, Ian Chow & Tracy Wong and Panda Head Curry.


New Straits Times

Bouts Of Oomph On Stage

15 May

P. Ramlee, The Musical directors (from left) Adlin Aman Ramlie and Zahim Albakri with choreographer Pat Ibrahim accepting their award.
P. Ramlee, The Musical directors (from left) Adlin Aman Ramlie and Zahim Albakri with choreographer Pat Ibrahim accepting their award.

There was no surprise as regards the performance which garnered the most number of trophies at the Boh Cameronian Arts Awards 2007 held recently. KHAIRUL ANWAR MOHAMED, however, feels grateful to the lively folk on stage that night for making the long ceremony seem less tedious.

The Musical
Maria Yasmin won Best Solo Performance (Voice) for her role in Tunku: The Musical

LAST Sunday night was filled with glitz, glamour and excitement as local theatre superstars, wannabees and everybody in between descended upon the Mandarin Oriental for the 6th Annual Boh Cameronian Arts Awards in Kuala Lumpur.

Almost everyone there was in exquisite suits, dresses or costumes. Catwoman paraded on the arm of a smartly dressed gentleman, one woman was in a flowing white gown suggesting a bridal gown were it not for the plastic katana (Japanese sword) on her back.

The main thing is, I was underdressed. I was advised to maintain “journalistic integrity” by not conforming to the party theme.

To break the ice, I chatted with theatre director Zalfian Fuzi, who introduced me to industry veterans such as Chacko Vadaketh and also to relatively new talents such as Soefira Jaafar, already a three-time winner of the awards.

Susie Kukathas, executive producer of Instant Cafe Theatre, also a judge in the Theatre Category, explained the judging process “done by computer ballot”.

“We watch the shows, then individually, we put in our personal scores. The data is collated by PriceWaterhouse Coopers and we’ll only find out who wins tonight.”

Pang Khee Teik, director of The Annexe Arts Centre, who was dressed in a faded Aquaman T-shirt, I felt better about my simple garb was one of the original masterminds of the Arts Awards. In Susie’s words: “He is the source”.

So what are the awards about? Seeing how small the local arts scene is, what’s the purpose of an awards show?

“It’s very simple, I always believe that awards make it possible to acknowledge people whose works have not been acknowledged in Malaysia. But I’m also aware that awards are not the be-all and end-all of any art.

Pang continued: “It’s only been five years, but I can tell you, in five years’ time, those people who started out reacting negatively towards the awards will end up winning some because they have successfully evolved within the industry.”

At the start of the show, the audience was treated to a rendition of Gelora, taken from P. Ramlee the Musical, sung by Sean Ghazi and Liza Hanim.

Hosts Shanon Shah and Angel Wong got the crowd laughing with an intelligent script in English, Malay, Tamil, Cantonese and Hokkien. They poked fun at Malaysian politics and pop cultural icons.

If it were not for the combined effects of the witty prize-givers, technical complications (with humorous results) and the lovely trophy bearer (Jessica Ho) who catwalked on and off stage with the crystal award trophies, the event might have made even a guy like me want to leave early.

Towards the end the show, momentum picked up – choreographer Pat Ibrahim danced across the stage to present an award. The show ended with the announcement of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Professor Ghulam Sarwar Yousof for his contributions to Malaysian art and literature.

Over the course of the night, many productions won awards in the categories of Dance, Music and Theatre.

What was predictable was P. Ramlee the Musical’s big win. It bagged five awards, including Best Director, Best Set Design, Best Music & Sound Design, and, the Kakiseni Audience choice awards.

The other big winners that night were Alih PungGONG, which won four awards in the Music category, and Hiding Love with three wins in the Dance category.


1. Best Featured Performer: Steve Goh for Hiding Love (presented by Kwang Tung Dance Troupe)

2. Best Choreographer in a Mixed Bill: Steve Goh for Falling Angel in 30.40 (MMY Production)

3. Best Choreographer in a Feature-length Work: Steve Goh for Hiding Love

4. Best Group Performance: Hiding Love

5. Best Lighting Design: Sivarajah Natarajan for Storming Destiny (Sutra Dance Theatre)

6. Best Design: Loi Chin Yu for In The Mist of Love (Charlie Tan Dance Theatre)

7. Best Music & Sound Design: Syarizan Sahamat for Asyik (ASWARA)

8. Best Costume Design: Tanjai Kamala Indira Dance School for Kalki’s Spectacular Sivagamiyin Sabatham (Tanjai Kamala Indira Dance School)


1. Best Group Performance (Instrumental): Alih PungGONG by Rhythm in Bronze

2. Best Group Performance (Voice): Frogway by Surprise Voice

3. Best Musical Direction: Jillian Ooi and Susan Sarah John for Alih PungGONG

4. Best Original Composition: Jillian Ooi for Runtuh in Alih PungGONG

5. Best Production Values: Alih PungGONG by Rhythm in Bronze

6. Best Solo Performance (Instrumental): Prakash Kandasamy for Jumpstart (musical direction by Jyotsna Nithyanandan, presented by Inner Space Performing Arts Company)

7. Best Solo Performance (Voice): Maria Yasmin for Tunku The Musical (The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre)


1. Best Group Performance: Dua, Tiga Dalang Berlari (Five Arts Centre)

2. Best Director: Adlin Aman Ramlie and Zahim Albakri for P. Ramlee, The Musical (Enfiniti Productions)

3. Best Lighting Design: Loh Kok Man for The Lost & The Ecliptic (Pentas Project & The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre)

4. Best Set Design: Raja Maliq for P. Ramlee, The Musical

5. Best Music and Sound Design: Dick Lee, Erwin Gutawa and Larry Mignogna for P. Ramlee, The Musical

6. Best Costume Design: Berg Lee for Little Mission Impossible (Integrated Expressions)

7. Best Actor in a Leading Role: Joe Hasham for Eh Joe in Electric Beckett (presented by The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre)

8. Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Melissa Saila for P. Ramlee, The Musical

9. Best Original Script (Bahasa Malaysia): Adlin Aman Ramlie and Al-Jafree Md. Yusop for P. Ramlee, The Musical

10. Best Original Script (English): Ann Lee for Tarap Man (Kuali Works & Dramalab)

11. Best Original Script (Chinese): no nominees for this award this year

Special awards:

*Most Promising Artiste: Brian Tan (musician)

*Champion of the Arts Award: Joseph Gonzales (educationist, dancer, choreographer)

*Audience Choice Award (Dance): Asyik (Aswara)

*Audience Choice Award (Music): Move It! YKLS Celebrates 5 Years of Music (The Young KL Singers)

*Audience Choice Award (Theatre): P. Ramlee, The Musical

*Lifetime Achievement Award: Prof Dr Ghulam Sarwar Yousof (scholar)


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